Haseena Moin - Outgrowing the soap queen image
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

Five minutes of chatting with Haseena Moin and you know what is her forte.She unfolds her life before you in such vivid details that you feel you are reading an absorbing book or watching it all on the mini screen!

As Haseena drifts down memory lane, she enthusiastically recounts the childhood experiences that have helped mold her personality. Within no time, you know all about the 'Banglawalla ghar' in Kanpur where she was born and its talaab (pond) that had probably been responsible for its name, and you learn that she had fallen into it when she was only one year old! She claims to have been a lucky child from her birth for although she arrived after three other daughters — which normally would not have been a cause for celebration — her grandmother rejoiced at her birth as she considered it unlucky to have a son after three daughters.

Hailing from a large family of five sisters and three brothers, Haseena recalls that her childhood had been happy and eventful.

Although her father was a "soft¬hearted, broad-minded and sweet-tempered man of whom the children took undue advantage", her mother was a strict disciplinarian. She recalls 'The very first day I went to school with my sister, I saw the teacher slapping a little boy. In an instant I was up, out of the class, through the gates, past the 'chawkidars', across the park and the main road and back at my house! I felt I had accomplished a great feat but instead of being appreciated for it, I was scolded and punished. The one good thing that came out of my recklessness though, was that we were never sent to the same school again!"

There is no dearth of anecdotes of Haseena's childhood. She recalls that when she joined the Anglo-Mohammedan School's nursery section, she had an English teacher who was very fond of her and would make her sit on her lap throughout the class. When she left school and was replaced by a Muslim teacher, Haseena wreaked havoc in the school, insisting that she "would not study from a dark teacher!" A bright child, she sailed through her school days with three double promotions — from nursery to grade two, from grade two to grade four and from grade four to six.


By the time she had got the results of her grade four exams, Partition had taken place and Haseena's family moved to Pakistan. Here she was taken into grade seven and did her Matric at the age of 13, from Lahore. Her higher studies, including her MA in General History and BEd in Urdu and General History were done from Karachi.

Haseena began her writing career as early as in grade seven, when she started writing short stories for a children's magazine called Bhaijan.

Based on caricatures of family and neighbours, they became immensely popular with readers. When in second year of college, she participated in Radio Pakistan's students' competition — 'Drama Festival'. Her play not only won an award but was so appreciated that producer Agha Nasir made a play based on it. Since then there has been no looking back for the gifted writer. She continued to write plays during her college and university days and when PTV inaugurated its Karachi station, they asked her to rewrite one of her radio plays — Naya Rasta — for television. That turned out to be her first PTV play and the next, Happy Eid Mubarak launched her career as a playwright of calibre. A string of successful serials such as Shahzori,Kiran Kahani, Zer-Zabar-Pesh, Uncle Urfi, etc. followed and Haseena Moin became a household name.

 

With so many mega-hit serials, one wonders why there was a period of decline in the playwright's illustrious career when her plays such as Pal Do Pal and Janey Anjaney did not hit the popularity charts like her other serials. Says Haseena "

My earlier plays were produced by people I had complete rapport with, such as Mohsin All, Shoaib Mansoor, Shireen Khan, Sahira Kazmi and Shehzad Khaleel.

When these stalwarts were no longer available for various reasons I had to work with new producers. This was also the beginning of a more commercialized phase for television in Pakistan, with private channels coming in. Janey Anjaney was handled by a film director, and I didn't realize at that point that I should have been on the sets throughout, for a film -director is not used to directing TV plays or serials.

The play became far too loud at places, seemed unnatural, and its characterisation was also changed. Soon after, Haseena started working on serious plays. She was asked to do a serial on expatriate Pakistanis settled in Scotland.The idea appealed to her as it meant not only visiting a new place but also meeting new people and listening to their experiences, so as to form the subject of her play. Then came Ansoo, based on a true story as well. It deals with the morbid topic of Alzheimer's disease. Laughs Haseena "It is strange, but when I was writing comedies I was criticised and people suggested that I write in a more serious vein. Now when I have begun to write on meaningful issues, people tell me to revert to comedies!"

Both Des Pardes (based on the expatriates) and Ansoo, however, were plays that Haseena herself thoroughly enjoyed doing as she feels that the experience of travelling and meeting all kinds of people widened her mental horizon. Haseena insists that her characters have always been inspired by true-life personalities which is why even in her earlier comedies, they always appeared natural. She was lucky that she managed to get the right performers every time and they did full justice to their roles. She does admit though, that there is a very Georgette Heyerish quality about all her earlier heroines.

I have been a very avid fan of Georgette Heyer and have felt that I could relate to her heroines as they had the same spunk I have always had. So I am not surprised that my heroines struck a similarity with them.



Haseena laments that the present day artistes are generally not as dedicated as their predecessors were. Thanks to the growing commercialisation of channels, they no longer have the time to give all of themselves to a play. She reminisces "Artistes used to get completely immersed in their plays and would get emotionally involved with the character they were portraying. I remember Shehla Ahmed had a nine-minute take in the last episode of Uncle Urfi where she was supposed to deliver the lines with no interruption. It is normally unheard of to do such a long scene for a TV play, yet she did it in one go! Nowadays, artistes are only concerned about how they look, the clothes they will be wearing and the number of plays they can do. I don't remember an artist ever checking to see if her hair were in place after a shot — now they do that after every take."

 

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Haseena feels that everyone is responsible for this current lack of professionalism in our artistes — directors, producers, sponsors, marketing people, etc. "

There are very few artistes left who don't care how they look as long as they manage to communicate their feelings to the viewers. Sanya is one such actor and Nadia Jameel is another

— although the latter has unfortunately begun to throw a lot of tantrums. The need of the hour is for artistes to polish their talent with hard work and constant rehearsals - which most people are no longer prepared to do."

Although Pakistani playwrights continue to script dramas that enjoy a worldwide following, one wonders why none has taken the initiative of writing a soap opera. Says Haseena "For soap operas one needs not only a strong director but a whole panel of writers. It's not possible for one writer to produce a 50-episode serial and those who are attempting to do it are making a big mistake. I too, was asked to write a long serial for India — they wanted about 52 episodes — but after scripting 391 refused to go any further. You cannot drag a serial on for so long, it's another story with a soap opera where there are many characters involved. There is a lot of potential for a good soap opera in Pakistan, provided a team of writers can work on it together so that there is no burden on any one writer. Similarly, there should be two directors working on it — all my previous serials had two directors and till today no one has been able to tell the difference in the direction of the various episodes of a play."

Haseena has written a comedy — Kashmakash — especially for India, at the behest of her friend, Chanda Narang. The serial was telecast on Doordarshan — a great honour for a Pakistani writer — and was very well received. Arshad Mahmud had composed the music for the serial. 

Written by Shanaz Ramzi